Environmental aid is going up and increasingly bilateral

While the overall increase in environmental aid is a positive trend, the increase in bilateral aid presents some consequences.

June 12, 2013
Ellie Kaufman

Michael Tierney, co-founder of AidData and Director of the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William and Mary, presented at the Research and Communication on Foreign Aid conference in Stockholm, Sweden on June 4. The meeting brought together scholars, practitioners, and policymakers, including the Ministers of Development from both Denmark and Sweden.

Tierney and Chris Marcoux of DePauw University presented on the findings of a working paper about how past environmental aid allocation impacts future climate aid. Marcoux discussed the increase in bilateral aid in the 2000s.

“Conference participants were skeptical of the way that donors have tracked climate finance and environmental aid. So, they seemed to like the fact that we had our own independent categorization system that we could apply consistently across time and across donors,” Tierney said. “This is necessary if you want to create any kind of credible baseline against which to assess donor promises for new and additional aid to address climate change.”

While the overall increase in environmental aid is a positive trend, the increase in bilateral aid presents some consequences that Marcoux cautions against. Marcoux explained that multilateral institutions can coordinate aid allocation so that it is more targeted and effective.  If donor governments are allocating directly through their own bilateral aid agencies, then the collaborative benefits of multilateral aid could be lost. The findings presented here are discussed in the working paper co-authored by the two presenters along with Bradley Parks, Christian Peratsakis, and Timmons Roberts.

These findings contributed to the overall goal of the event to research and communicate what is working and what can still be achieved through development assistance. Of nine papers presented at the conference, three of them used AidData data. The conference is a United Nations University coordinated research program hosted in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark International Cooperation, and the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency.

“[United Nations University] encouraged us to update our work on environmental aid, and they put us directly in touch with a network of researchers in Africa who can put our data to use and who can serve as research collaborators,” Tierney said.

Ellie Kaufman is an AidData Communications Consultant, and a graduate of the College of William & Mary ('13)